How to Establish Residency in Albania: The Ultimate Guide

by | Jun 25, 2024 | Albania for Expats, Blog, Visas and Immigration, Working in Albania | 0 comments

One of the questions that comes up most often at any expat gathering is how people have obtained their residency and what was needed for the process, so we have put together the ultimate guide to establishing residency in Albania.

What makes this process confusing, is that there are different types of permits, different reasons for obtaining the permit, different rules that apply to citizens of different countries – therefore what you can apply for, the steps you need to follow and the documentation you personally may need may be unique to you.

There is also the added challenge that the information provided in the law isn’t always 100% clear cut and there is room for interpretation by the border and migration police – and a grumpy officer may just ask you for additional things that technically you don’t need, but they feel like it.

So this is one area where we recommend getting support in place for your application. This will make sure you have the correct documentation before starting the process, you complete your application within the timeframe specified and if you run into any issues the person knows what you need to provide and what not. For support with legal matters we recommend our legal expert Brisilda. Book a free consultation here or reach her at legalexpert@realalbanian.com

So with that precursor out of the way, let’s look at the requirements for entering Albania and applying for a residence permit.

Albanian Visa Requirements

First things first, to be able to apply for a residence permit you need to actually enter the country as the application for residency is made from inside Albania.

Citizens of many countries are exempt from requiring a visa to visit Albania, you can find the full list of visa requirements here

Then you can enter Albania and stay here visa free for 90 days (or 1 year if you are a US citizen). All you need is a passport that is valid for a minimum of 3 months after your stay here. 

You can also enjoy these rights if you have a multiple entry Schengen, UK or US visa in your passport that has previously been used to enter a Schengen country. So if you’re South African but you have a multiple entry Schengen visa, you can also enter Albania visa free.

Something you may find unusual when you enter Albania is that your passport will not be stamped, so if you have flexible travel arrangements, you may want to note down which date you entered Albania, so you don’t accidentally stay over the 90 day period. Your entry date IS recorded digitally and they know exactly when you entered and exited, so do not think that you’ll get away with overstaying (I speak from an expensive personal experience).

Everyone that is not on the list of visa-free countries needs to apply for a visa before entering Albania. This can be done at the nearest Albanian consulate (or another consulate that works with Albania). Find your nearest Albanian embassy or consulate here.

Visas to enter Albania

There 2 main types of Visas, the “C” Visa and the “D” Visa.

“C” Visa

The C Visa allows you to enter Albania for a period of 90 days in 180 days. This may be issued as a single or multiple-entry visa and is valid for up to 5 years.

“D” Visa

The D Visa is the visa you will need to apply for if you’re looking to apply for residency. The D Visa allows you to reside in Albania for more than 90 days in a 180 day period and it is valid for one year.

Once you have your D Visa you can enter Albania and then proceed with your application for the residency.

Work Permits in Albania

If you are going to be undertaking work in Albania, be it on an employed or self-employed basis, you will require a work permit.

This work permit is applied for separately, however you may be required to provide this during your residency application if your visa is for work purposes.

According to law on Foreigners US, EU and Schengen zone citizens have the same rights to employment and self-employment as Albanian citizens meaning that you can just come here and apply for your work permit and it will be granted.

This is something your employer may handle for you if you’re coming from a country outside of this area. If not, then your lawyer can also assist with this process.

The Albanian Law “On Foreigners”

The original law pertaining to foreigners was law 108/2013, however this has since been updated and now law 79/2021 should contain the most up-to-date information.

The new law contains additional categories for foreigners wishing to reside in Albania (for example Au Pairs, Athletes and Remote Digital Workers), however there are some other changes noted in the application process, but in practice you may find that things are still done in line with the old law, so it’s important to be aware – and again legal support can help, particularly if you’re applying for one of the newer permits like the ‘Digital Nomad’ visa.

The issue with the law in general is that it’s not very detailed and many things are left open to interpretation as you will see further along in this article. Again that’s where your lawyer will explain to you what is generally “the done thing” and what is expected of you. This is particularly the case when it comes to how much money you need to earn/have saved/invest etc. This can also change at any point.

What does the law on foreigners cover?

The law on foreigners specifies many things including:

  • Entry and exit from Albania
  • Visa and Residence Permit types available and who can apply
  • Work permits and employment of foreigners in the country
  • Obligations and rights of foreigners

The Types of Residence Permits in Albania

Albania has different types of residence permits. And those permits are issued for a variety of “motivations”.

The residence permits include:

Type A

This is a non-renewable permit issued for a limited period of time.

Type B (“Unique”)

The type B unique permit is issued for a defined period and gives the person the right to enter, stay and leave Albanian within the defined period.

Type C

The Type C permit is issued for an indefinite period.

Blue Card AL

The blue card is a renewable residence permit for highly qualified employees.

Blue Card AL-C

The Blue Card AL-C is a permanent residence permit issued for highly qualified employees.

Motivations for Residence Permits being issued

Your motivation for entering Albania defines the type of residence permit that can be issued to you. The most common motivations as listed in the law are as follows:

a) On grounds of family reunification 
b) For study purposes (students and pupils) 
c) For unpaid traineeship 
ç) For au pairs
d) For youth exchange 
dh) For scientific research 
e) To seek employment or entrepreneurship for researchers and students 
ë) On humanitarian grounds 
f) On victims of trafficking in persons 
g) For stateless persons 
gj)Single residence permit for working purpose

i. Single permit as employee
ii. Single permit for seasonal work
iii. Single intra-corporate transferee permit
iv. Single permit as frontier worker
v. Single permit for vocational training
vi. Single permit for athletes
vii. Single permit for voluntary service 
viii. Single permit for highly skilled workers
ix. Single permit for self-employed
x. Single permit for ICT-enabled mobile workers
xi. Single permit for investors
xii. Single permit for service contracting 
xiii. Single permit for special categories 

h) For crew members of vessels 
i) Single permit for use of owned immovable property
j) Single permit for pensioners 

The type of permit, the motivation as well as your country of origin also determine how long the residence permit will be valid for.

Duration of Residence Permits

Residence permits in Albania are usually issued for a length of either:

  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 1 year (can’t be renewed more than 5 times)
  • 2 years (can’t be renewed more than once)
  • 5 years (citizens of the US, Kosovo and the EU normally receive a 5 year permit during the first application unless the reason for application is the purchase of property, then a one year permit will be issued)

Foreigners with a valid residence permit will be issued an ID card similar to the ID card of Albanian nationals and this ID card will enable you to access digital services in the e-Albania portal.

Permanent Residence in Albania

A foreign citizen can achieve permanent residence in Albania after a period of 5 years. It’s up to you whether you wish to apply for this or not.

Albanian Residency through Investment

You are able to obtain residency in Albania through investment as specified in Article 69 of the law on foreigners 79/2021.

You will initally be issued a 2 year permit which can then be renewed once for a three year period thereafter. Then you would also be able to apply for permanent residency.

The requirement is that the business meets certain requirements and these requirements remain unchanged during the entire period.

According to the law the conditions are

  • An investment has to be made (the value of which is determined by the Albanian ministers of security and finance and once again not defined in this law)
  • The business has to employ 5 Albanians for every foreigner (this applies to staff and its governing body)
  • Employees must be paid at least average salary for their role
  • The economic entity has to be profitable and taxes have to have been paid.

Again this is a permit where getting legal support will be incredibly beneficial.

Getting Residency in Albania through Real Estate

You are also able to attain a residence permit through purchasing real estate, again similar to the residence permit through investment. It is not always clear how much you need to spend in order to get your residence permit.

There is no definition on the type of property that you need to purchase, so both residential and commercial properties count. Be aware that foreigners are generally not allowed to own land in Albania (it’s possible to work around this through establishing a company).

To be able to obtain your residence permit through real estate you need to show proof of ownership of the property. You do not need to be the sole owner, but you must own the majority share of the property.

You will be issued with a one year residence permit which can then be renewed provided you remain the owner of the property.

The Procedure for Getting an Albanian Residence Permit

To obtain your residence permit you first and foremost need to be legally allowed to enter Albania. So the first step is to check the visa requirements and apply for the D visa if you need it.

Applying for your Albanian Residence Permit

Then the application is made through the online system on e-Albania, the website is often not working, but I have been in the situation where other professionals have been able to access it, so again having support helps.

The first step is to fill in your application online. You will be asked to upload some documents during this step, which you may first need to obtain (sometimes from abroad). 

Then you will receive an invite to attend an in-person appointment at the office in Laprake. I have found during my appointments that some people who work at the office speak very little English, so having your lawyer with you helps with any communication issues. You will be asked to fill out the same form again that you submitted online, you will need to bring photographs and also you will likely be required to bring the original of any documents and they will take another set of copies (you’re basically repeating the online process again on paper).

Which documents do you need to apply for an Albanian Residence Permit

The documents will depend on where you’re from and the type of residence permit you are applying for and may include:

  • Passport
  • Birth Certificate (apostilled in your home country and translated into Albanian)
  • Proof of Income, Proof of Funds
  • Business Registration / Registration as self-employed person
  • Proof of Property Ownership
  • Health Insurance for the duration of your permit (if you’re working here then you will be paying into the state health insurance and you should not need a separate insurance)
  • Passport Photos
  • A police check from your home country (apostilled and translated into Albanian)
  • Work permit
  • Registered address (this will require a notarised contract meaning that likely your landlord will pass on the 15% tax they now need to pay to you, increasing your rent, some landlords will not rent to you because of this)
  • Registration at the Bashkia office for your registered address
  • Application Fee (around 80 EUR, although this may change)
  • Business Information

For renewals you may also be asked to provide additional documentation. As a business owner I had to submit proof that all of my taxes had been paid and that I had paid the sigurime (health insurance contributions and pension).

In my own experience over the years (as an EU citizen with a business) I have had issues with various steps of the process such as the online system being down and not being able to submit the application in time, issues with the forms, being asked for health insurance when I don’t require it and many other things, so I always make sure I have support during the process from someone that deals with the Border and Migration Police all the time and has heard it all before. They can often set the record straight for you.

When do you need to apply for your Albanian Residence Permit?

The new law from 2021 states that you need to start the application for your residence permit within 60 days of entering Albania. This used to be 30 days in the past, and most of my friends that have applied since 2021 where still told they have to apply within those 30 days. So take the 60 days with a grain of salt.

The good thing is that what counts is your LAST entry date into Albania, not the first. So you can simply take a beautiful weekend trip to a neighbouring country and then come back and submit your application.

Residence Permit in Albania

The Temporary Residence Permit

Once you have submitted your application you will be issued a temporary residence permit. This will be a paper permit which you can collect in person at the office in Laprake, some lawyers will collect this for you to save you the trip.

You should be informed via email once this is ready, but they never sent me an email, so I had to make a couple of random trips out there.

Technically by the time the temporary permit runs out you should have been able to collect your actual permit, however since “the system” often breaks you could end up not having your permit for 6 months, so this makes traveling a little tricky, again ask your lawyer for help.

Collecting your residence permit card

To be able to get your residency card you need to purchase a coupon and take that to the immigration office.

Be aware that during the appointment at the immigration office they will need to take a new photo of your for your ID card, so don’t be like me and look presentable, because your previous photos are NOT used for your card.

You will also need to provide finger prints and then you can take your new residence permit with you. They will usually accept this as ID in banks and at the money exchange for example, and I have been able to travel to Kosovo with just my residency card.

Getting Albanian Citizenship

Law 8389/1998 defines how you can obtain Albanian citizenship.

You can obtain Albanian citizenship in one of 3 ways:

  1. Birth and descent
  2. Naturalisation
  3. Adoption

The criteria to naturalise as an Albanian citizen are as follows:

  • You must be over 18 years of age
  • You have to have been legally resident in Albania for a period of 5 consecutive years
  • You must have a place to live
  • You must have sufficient income to support yourself
  • You must not have been in prison for more than 3 years in Albania or any other country
  • You must provide proof of basic Albanian skills
  • You do not provide a security risk to Albania

If you have been married to an Albanian for a minimum of 3 years and you have resided in Albania legally for at least one year, you can apply for citizenship right away. In this case you do not need to take the language exam.

Now I have heard some anecdotal stories over the years that citizenship applications were refused because the person has been outside of Albania for too many days over the 5 year period. Usually it has been more than 6 months in total. While I cannot find any reference to this in the law anywhere I’d just be aware of this and monitor your time outside of Albania carefully just in case.

How can I get help with my residency application?

For all of the reasons named above you may find it beneficial to have legal support by your side. Your lawyer can help you with filling out the confusing application, inform you of your options for residence permits, provide you with the list of documents you need to get ahead of time and also help you during the process by attending appointments with you and helping you resolve any issues that crop up during the process.

We recommend reaching out to our trusted expert Brisilda, you can book a free consultation below, or reach out to her via legalexpert@realalbanian.com


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